Nearly everyone swears—in pain, inebriation, anger, and even joy. We punish children for profanity, but use those same words in relief when they fall asleep. Swearing, it seems, is an intimate part of us that we have decided to deny.
Linguist Benjamin K. Bergen thinks that’s a damn shame. He believes that swearing is a critical part of our self expression. How can stroke patients left otherwise speechless still shout “Goddamn!” when they get upset? What makes crap vulgar when poo is just childish? Why do we extend a middle finger to flip someone off? As Bergen demonstrates, profanity opens a new window onto how our brains process language. This talk is for anyone who wonders why we swear.
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Presented by: Town Hall and University Book Store, as part of the Arts & Culture series.
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